Sun, sea, sand, and the smell of rotting flesh. The island of Banoi is a beautiful paradise that has been overrun by the flesh-eaters themselves. The game has seen an overwhelming amount of attention since earlier this year with its heart-wrenching trailer, but does the game deserve the same? In a way, yes. Dead Island can be sluggish, uneven, and at times pretty bad. But thanks it incredibly fun gameplay, a huge world to explore and brilliant co-op, Dead Island is worth your time and money.
Before the game even begins you get to choose from one of four characters. Each character has a special ability and preferred weapon. Each character has a backstory on the character select screen but as soon as you start the game, you don’t really learn anything else about your character. You start the game waking up in a hotel just hours after the zombies attacked. After a voice leading you to a safe haven, the other survivors let you know that you are immune to becoming infected. Because of this, it now becomes your job to go out there and help other survivors.
All the survivors, including yourself are pretty one dimensional so if you were expecting a deep story with interesting characters, then you will be disappointed, but there is a lot more to be excited for. Other survivors give you all kind of different objectives for you to complete. From looking for another survivor, to collecting certain objects, to powering generators and a whole lot more. There is a plethora or quests to do, and it never feels repetitive.
As you complete objectives, you gain XP, as well as cash or new weapons. This XP helps level up the characters. In the end, Dead Island is an Action Role Playing Game so a skill tree is greatly appreciated. Levelling up certain aspects of your character is rewarding, especially when unlocking new abilities. There are three main trees to level up and quite a bit in each one.
Nothing though, is as satisfying as taking a weapon and laying into some zombies. At the heart of Dead Island is its melee focused combat. In the beginning, you slowly bludgeon zombies to death with a paddle but soon enough, you are taking off limbs and breaking bones. Possibly the most impressive feature of Dead Island is the dismembering of zombies. After a couple of hours, weapons become strong enough to cause a lot of damage. This isn’t a mindless swinging affair; instead, choosing the right parts of the body sometimes gets you through the most harrowing of situations. Blunt objects break arms, leaving it dangling listlessly, while sharp ones cleanly cut through the flesh. Zombies can even be taken down in one well aimed headshot. The game does feature firearms but they are few and far between, plus they are nowhere near as satisfying as taking out a horde of zombies with an electrified machete.
These melee weapons break way too quickly. To help rectify that, you can repair, level-up or modify your weapons. If you want to modify your weapon, you must first find blueprints which don’t start showing up until later on in the game.
Playing through Dead Island alone is incredible fun, but is nothing compared to grabbing a few friends and cut off legs together. Just like the romantic island itself, everything feels more special when you kill zombies together. The game also keeps the challenge up by scaling the number and the level of the zombies with you and your buddies levels.
When you first walk out onto the beach, it’s easily to stand there and take in the beauty thanks to Techland’s Chrome engine. Lighting is spectacular, whether the sun is beaming down on you or you’re carefully tracing darkened hallways. Character and zombies models are a slight step down. They don’t look terrible but emotionless faces when delivering broken-hearted lines look really out of place; plus the voice acting is pretty bad for the most part anyway. Then the engine seems to take it another step down with texture pop-in and some looking quite pixelated.
One thing though Techland must be commended on is its atmosphere. Different environments look and so completely different, creating the perfect feeling. The slow piano pieces really emphasise the desperation and hopelessness of the survivors, while the groans of the zombies in dark corridors and sewers have you on the edge of your seat.
And Dead Island is a big game. The campaign can easily take 20 hours, without doing all the side missions. The Island of Banoi is completely open for you to explore at any time you want. Levelling your character up to level 50 can take quite some time, only giving your more of an incentive to keep playing after you’ve completed it.
Sure Dead Island has a small list of annoyances and flaws but they are tiny for the most part and don’t ruin the extremely fun gameplay. You can carry your character over into a new game while keeping your level and inventory. It’s probably not exactly what people were expecting, but it’s better for that. It’s fun, zombie slaying action on an huge beautiful Island. Isn’t that what gaming paradise is all about?